GRAPEVINE, Texas -- At Grapefest this weekend, they're raising their glasses to Texas wine.
The Lone Star State is a growing wine powerhouse with billions of dollars in economic impact and thousands of jobs.
"We're the fastest growing wine-producing area in the country," said Paul Vincent Bonarrigo, founder of the pioneering Messina Hof Winery.
Winemakers know people still don't think of Texas as a wine-producing state, but wine does have a long history here. In fact, the very first vineyard in North America was established in Texas by Franciscan priests in 1662, according to the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association.
This weekend, 160 wines from across Texas will be competing in the annual People's Choice Wine Tasting Classic. It's billed as the largest consumer-judged wine contest in the country.
"You're looking at over 400 vineyards in the state of Texas right now, and it's growing every day," said Anna Van Goey, a manager with Delaney Vineyards.
Delaney Vineyards has three wines in the competition, one of which is produced with grapes that are grown at their 10-acre vineyard in Grapevine. Many more of their grapes are grown at their larger vineyard near Lubbock.
"From vine to bottle, only our own grapes," said Van Goey. "I think you'll find you'll be very pleasantly surprised."
Texas still pales in comparison to California in terms of volume. Last year, California produced some 680 million gallons of wine while Texas produced just under 2 million.
Of course, the real question is how it tastes. According to a native Texan and sommelier, it's all about which variety you choose.
"In America when they think of wine, they think Cabernet and they think Chardonnay. And if you're wanting to go for Texas wine, don't go for either one of those," said Blake Dewater, wine buyer and manager of the wine program at Winslow's Wine Cafe in Fort Worth.
Dewater said the quality of Texas wines has improved significantly in recent years, but it's important to choose grape varieties that are suited to our state. For red wine, he recommends Tempranillo, while Viognier is a good white option.
"Really warmer climate grapes that do well in Spain and Portugal work better over here," said Dewater.
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